November 18, 2020
From Autonomies

Helen Levitt photograph

The maturity of man – that means, to have reacquired the seriousness that one had as a child at play.

Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

A fragment from the prologue to Amador Fernández Savater’s recently published essay, Habitar y gobernar; inspiraciones para una nueva concepción política (Ned ediciones, 2020). (lobo suelto 15/10/2020)

What to do is the quintessential question of the classical revolutionary imaginary, posed by Lenin in the book of the same title. It is the question of a model: the dominant model of revolution in the 20th century, both triumphant (as a seizure of power) and a complete failure (as an experience of emancipation).

There were, of course, other revolutions in the twentieth century (such as the Mexican or the Spanish), but they were somehow obscured by “the shadow of October”. October became the model of every revolution, the physiognomy of the revolution, exported all over the world. The images of change in October became the images of change par excellence: of what had to be done, of what could be expected, etc.

The seizure of power as an objective, the State as a fundamental lever, knowledge as science, theory as knowledge that is injected from the outside into the masses, militancy as heroism, commitment as a disciplined incorporation of the idea, conflict as a struggle to death, the organisation as a conscious vanguard structured in a Party, the revolution as a major event that breaks the history of the world in two or that sets a point zero …

This model is rooted in what we could call the “government paradigm” of Western thought or metaphysics, according to which a subject – armed with science, organisation and willpower – submits a world-object and models it, civilises it, elevating being to what should be. In this book, we will not take stock of this model and its “dark disaster”, as Alain Badiou calls it in his historical reflection on authoritarian communism, but rather we will ask ourselves about the possibility of a displacement: from the question of what to do to the question of how to do.

What to do, we say, is the question for a model. How to do is instead the question of the lost children. “The revolt that is coming is the revolt of lost children,” the Tiqqun collective tells us.

Lost children because they have more questions than anything, a difficult condition to sustain, of great helplessness, in the midst of emergencies that seem to require immediate measures (applications of knowledge already available). But such measures can be only trompe l’œil, because the real challenge is the transformation of ways of feeling, thinking and acting, a civilisational mutation that is already underway, by fragments, in the present world.

Lost children because they no longer find a safe guide in the power of the Text or of Science, “omnipotent because true.”

Lost children because they have no wise language, only everyday language.

Lost children because they do not contest the established order and knowledge with another order and another knowledge in their heads, but rather they interrupt, ask, desert, try and attempt, through experience and feeling.

Lost children because they do not look at the world from the perspective of a State, to be demolished or conquered, at present or in the future, thus disobeying the law of oscillation.

Lost children because they do not seek to take over a center (center of power, center of knowledge), but neither to settle on the margins or the periphery, but to blur the difference between both.

Lost children because they no longer seek to govern, or be governed, but to become and remain ungovernable.

Lost children because they eat their own wheat, without waiting for tomorrow.

Lost children whose non-knowledge is not ignorance, but the potential to think.

Lost children who do not expect to find themselves finally, but assume that the question of how to do is an endless, inexhaustible question.

Thus, like lost children, we feel our way towards the revolutions of the 21st century. Without ever dissociating again what is wanted and how it is wanted, as in the old question of what to do, where the end justified the most aberrant means, but rather accepting that the means already prefigure the ends or that there are only means, means without ends, “pure means”.

An interview with Fernández-Savater, on the occasion of the publication of the essay, Habitar y governar (in spanish) …